Rennsteig Express

location Europe, Germany
  • Distance

    109 Mi.

    (175 KM)
  • Days

    2-3

  • % Unpaved

    86%

  • % Singletrack

    15%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    4.5

  • % Rideable (time)

    99%

  • Total Ascent

    9,426'

    (2,873 M)
  • High Point

    3,180'

    (969 M)

Contributed By

Dani Haudenschild

Dani Haudenschild

Guest Contributor

Dani moved to Germany and now lives in the Hessian highland city of Kassel. He likes to get outside of the city to explore the forests and rural countryside by bike. Whenever there is time, he enjoys short rides, overnighters, or a longer bikepacking adventure. 

The Rennsteig Express is a classic bikepacking route traversing the Thüringer Forest on the historic Rennsteig ridge trail. The route travels through one of Germany’s largest forests and a UNESCO biosphere reserve on mostly fast rolling gravel roads. The lush meadows, hearty eateries, and rustic wooden shelters make up for the challenging climbs.
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The Rennsteig is an historic hiking trail following the ridgeline of the Thüringer Forest, which makes it an ideal bikepacking adventure. Starting at the shores of the Werra river at Hörschel, tradition has it to pick up a pebble and carry it over the Rennsteig to throw it into the Selbitz river at Blankenstein for good luck. On the 175km track, you’ll pass through different types of forests, beautiful wildflower meadows, and a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The deep woods and idyllic rural landscapes are enjoyable to explore.

The majority of the Rennsteig is on gravel roads with a few singletrack segments. You might have to push a few times on some short and steeps ascents. The highest peak is the Großer Beerberg at 983 meters. Despite the relatively low altitude of the route, the frequent harsh and rainy weather can add a twist to the ride.

  • Rennsteig Express Bikepacking Route
  • Rennsteig Express Bikepacking Route

Plan to ride the Renneting for a challenging overnighter or space the route out over three days to enjoy the route to its fullest. If you have time, include an additional day to ride through the Hainich National Park, which is one of the few remaining Beechwood old-growth forests in Europe, or follow the idyllic Saale river to Hof. 

Route Difficulty

The riding on this route is mostly straightforward. However, the difficulty stems from the physically demanding climbs. The resupplies and logistics are simple because of the plenty eateries, supermarkets, and “Rennsteighäuser” with local information and facilities along the trail. One highlight are the numerous rustic wooden shelters (every 5-10km) on the route that make ideal campsites—no need to bring a tent. Both trailheads are located next to train stations for easy access. Overall, the Rennsteig earns a 4.5 in difficulty due to its accessibility but demanding climbs.

Route Development: This route is largely based on the pre-existing long-distance Rennsteig hiking trail and the Rennsteig bike route.

Local OvernighterThis route is part of the Local Overnighter Project, which was created to expand our growing list of worldwide bikepacking routes—the first and largest of its kind—and create an independent map and catalog of great bikepacking overnighters, curated by you, from your own backyard. Our goal is to have accessible routes from every town and city in the world. Learn More
  • Highlights

    camera

  • Must Know

    alert

  • Camping

    home

  • Food/H2O

    drop

  • Resources

    link

  • Incredible scenic views from the mountain ridgeline 
  • Beautiful wildflower meadows
  • Sleeping in the rustic wooden shelters in the forest
  • Enjoying the UNESCO Biosphere reserve Thrüringer forest
  • The typical local architecture 
  • Crossing the former West/East German border
  • Multiple watch towers for scenic views 
  • Views of the medieval Warteburg castle
  • When to go: The best time to ride this route is anytime between April and October
  • The route follows a mix of the Rennsteig hiking trail marked by sign posts with a white “R”, the Rennsteig bike route, and diverges some times for the most fun riding experience.
  • The few mellow singletrack sections are fun to ride, but they can also often be avoided by taking the nearby road.
  • There are a few paved sections on rural roads.
  • The route can be ridden in both directions, and the reverse direction can save you a bit of climbing.
  • Both trailheads are next to train stations and easily accessible  
  • Take precaution, yield for other trail users and give hikers right of way
  • Leave no trace behind!
  • Frequent harsh and rainy weather can add a twist to the ride
  • Countless rustic wooden shelters (Schutzhütten) every 5-10km are ideal for sleeping. There is no need to bring a tent! During high season, some shelters can be fully occupied, but the next one is usually not far.
  • Several Rennsteighäuser along the route offer information, toilets, and even showers!
  • Be mindful of your impact on the environment
  • Resupply is aplenty on this route. There are lots of guesthouses, cafes, and supermarkets. Remember that on Sundays and holidays stores are closed in Germany. 
  • There are a few springs to refill water, and most locals are also happy to provide tap water.

Additional Resources

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on BIKEPACKING.com, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. BIKEPACKING.com LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

FILED IN (CATEGORIES & TAGS)

Europe

Germany

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